Knight asks ‘realism with enthusiasm’

Knight asks ‘realism with enthusiasm’

by Bob Hammel, Sports Editor

November 26, 1975

From the November 26, 1975 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Notably short on pre-season promises in his first four years at Indiana University, basketball coach Bob Knight made one to the turnout for the annual Hoosier basketball breakfast today:

“We’re just not going to go out and beat 27 teams the way last year’s team did and the way you people expect.”

It was not an effort toward pessimism, but rather one toward “bringing realism to a communion with enthusiasm,” Knight said while “telling you that we greatly appreciate your enthusiasm and support.

“I sense in the university, and the community of Bloomington, and across the state sort of an unrealistic attitude.

“I see buttons and banners talking about going to Philadelphia (site of this year’s NCAA finals). I don’t know if that’s just someone trying to profit on a pretty good operation or what, but I do know that sort of thing is absolutely, totally unfair to the players on our basketball team.

“You have a right to expect good basketball and an all-out effort every game. But you don’t have a right to put that kind of pressure on 19- 20- and 21-year-old kids who are going to go out and give you the very best they have.

“I can guarantee you in March that if this team doesn’t qualify for a national tournament, it will have played just as hard and worked just as often to give you dedicated and interesting basketball as last year’s team did.

“I wish I could tell you this team was going to win every time it went out. But I can’t. There are a lot of good basketball players in the United States, and a great number of them are playing at UCLA … and some are at Florida State … and some are at Kentucky … and some are at Notre Dame … and so on ad infinitum right through our schedule.

“I know if I was coaching somewhere else in the Big Ten, I’d have only one thing on my mind, and that would be to beat Indiana, because I’d be damned sick and tired of them being where they have been for the last three years.

“In the past, we’ve been in that position, and we’ve been able to come through on a couple of occasions like that, so I know what these kids will be facing.”

Knight’s only mention of specific players on this year’s team started with warm praise for his three-year co-captain, Quinn Buckner.

“The kind of effort we’ve gotten in practice is attributable to only one thing: one of our players who wears No. 21,” Knight said.

“In four years, Buckner’s enthusiasm for competition has not diminished. It has increased. He is a tremendous driving force for getting effort and enthusiasm from everybody in our practices.

“Here’s a kid who has received about every honor a college basketball player can receive but has worked harder than ever and taken even greater responsibility and pushed other players more.

“And our other seniors have reacted just as he has – Scott May, Jimmy Crews, Bobby Wilkerson and Tommy Abernethy.

“They’re the ones who are responsible for what we have been able to accomplish – and we are going to find out pretty quick just what we have accomplished.”

The reference obviously was to Saturday night’s classic season opener – the No. 1-ranked Hoosiers against the defending NCAA champion, No. 2-ranked UCLA Bruins on national television from St. Louis Arena.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Knight said. “Certainly, we appreciate the opportunity to go into a season with this kind of interest and recognition of the kind of basketball program we have had in the past, because that’s what these things are right now – a reminder of what happened before.

“Our players know this year they have to start completely from scratch. Our last year’s record is probably not going to be posted on the scoreboard at St. Louis. We’re not going to start out with a 31-1 lead on UCLA.”

Knight’s annual basketball breakfast bantering match with H-T publisher Scott Schurz wound up with Schurz presenting a plaque of an original Charles Schulz drawing of Linus and Snoopy from Schulz’ “Peanuts” comic strip (Linus: “Gee, I sure would like to play basketball for Bobby Knight at Indiana University;” Snoopy: “Not until you get rid of that blanket, kid”).

IU President John Ryan extended his appreciation for “the art, the science, the enthusiasm of great basketball” and for “the quality of young men attracted to the university by the basketball, the team and the staff.

“Bob Knight stands for what the university stands for: unremitting work for the individual toward constant improvement … which is another way of saying he’s never satisfied with me, either, but I keep trying to do better.”

***

“Enthusiasm and loyalty” were key words for another point made with unspoken clarity – with IU football coach Lee Corso in the audience.

Dave McCrea, president of the Bloomington Varsity Club and toastmaster for the breakfast, noted the “tremendous display of enthusiasm and loyalty” Indiana fans showed in the closing regular-season game against Michigan State last year, when the Hoosiers fell 10 points behind early.

“We were 28-and-0 at the time,” Knight needled. “I would hope those kids had earned a little of that by then.

“That’s not the time you really need enthusiasm and loyalty. When you see a bunch of guys trying their hardest and running into frustration and difficulties, when every time you take two steps forward it seems like you take three steps backward, when you know you are working harder than everybody around you but nobody notices – that’s when you need enthusiasm and loyalty, I don’t care what the sport is.

“That’s loyalty and enthusiasm. The rest is just jumping on the bandwagon.” Spontaneous applause interrupted him.